Brief Historical Background

How did Rabbinic Literature Develop in Judaism?

The Rabbinic Writings, The Mishnah, and the Talmud. During the first century A.D. the Pharisaic rabbis created many commentaries on the Torah. When Jesus began his ministry He attacked the Pharisees for putting their traditions above the word of God. All the writings and commentaries of the first two centuries A.D. were compiled and organized into a collection by a man named Judah Hanasi around 200 A.D. forming a collection called the Mishnah. The Pharisaic rabbis were known as the "Tannaim" which in Hebrew is translated teachers, and these men were the teachers who regulated the law. There was another collection of their commentary which was much smaller, it was known as the Tosefta which in Hebrew means "enlargement". The later commentaries on the Mishnah were made by "expositors".

Historical Timeline

The Persian Period 430-332 B.C. - At the close of the Old Testament, about 430 B.C., Judea was a Persian province. Persia had been a World-Power for about 100 years. It remained so for another 100 years, during which period not much is known of Jewish history. Persian rule was, for the most part, mild and tolerant.

The Greek Period 331-167 B.C. - Up to this time the great powers of the world had been in Asia and Africa. But looming ominously on the western horizon was the rising power of Greece. The beginnings of Greek history are veiled in myth. It is thought to have commenced about the 12th century B.C., the time of the Biblical Judges. Then came the Trojan War, and Homer, about 1,000 B.C., the age of David and Solomon. The beginning of authentic Greek history has usually been reckoned from the First Olympiad, 776 B.C. Then came the Formation of Hellenic States, 776-500 B.C. Then the Persian Wars, 500-3 31 B.C. And the famous battles: Marathon, 490; Thermopalyae and Salamis, 480. Then the brilliant era of Pericles, 465-429, and Socrates, 469-399, contemporaneous with Ezra and Nehemiah. Alexander the Great, 336 B.C., at the age of 20, assumed command of the Greek army, and, like a meteor, swept eastward over the lands that had been under the dominion of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. By 331 B.C. the whole world lay at his feet. On his invasion of Palestine, 332 B.C., he showed great consideration to the Jews, spared Jerusalem, and offered immunities to the Jews to settle in Alexandria. He established Greek cities all over his conquered domains, and along with them Greek culture and the Greek language. After a brief reign he died, 3 2 3 B.C. On Alexander's death his empire fell to four of his generals, the two eastern sections going, Syria to Seleucus, and Egypt to Ptolemy. Palestine, lying between Syria and Egypt, went first to Syria, but shortly assed to Egypt (301 B.C.), and remained under control of Egypt until 198 B.C. Under the kings of Egypt, called the "Ptolemies," the condition of the Jews was mainly peaceful and happy. Those that were in Egypt built synagogues in all their settlements. Alexandria became an influential center of Judaism. Antiochus the Great re-conquered Palestine (198 B.C.), and it passed back to the kings of Syria, called the "Seleucids." Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.c.), was violently bitter against the Jews, and he made a furious and determined effort to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem (168 B.C.), defiled the Temple, offered a sow on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion. This led to the Maccabean revolt, one of the most heroic feats in history. The Ptolemies, Greek Kings of Egypt, were: Ptolemy I (3 2 3-2 85 B.c.). Ptolemy II (285-247) . Ptolemy III (247-222) . Ptolemy IV (222-205) . Ptolemy V (205-182) . Ptolemy VI (182-146) . Ptolemy VII (146-117).

The Period of Independence 167-63 B.C. - Also called the Maccabean, or Asmonean, or Hasmonaean, period. Mattathias, a priest, of intense patriotism and unbounded courage, infuriated at the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy the Jews and their religion, gathered a band of loyal Jews and raised the standard of revolt. He had five heroic and warlike sons; Judas, Jonathan, Simon, John and Eleazar. Mattathias died (166 s.c.). His mantle fell on his son Judas, a warrior of amazing military genius. He won battle after battle against unbelievable and impossible odds. He re-conquered Jerusalem (165 B.C.); and purified and re-dedicated the Temple. This was the origin of the Feast of Dedication. Judas united the priestly and civil authority in himself, and thus established the line of Asmonean priest-rulers who for the following 100 years governed an independent Judea. They were: Mattathias (167-166 B.c.). Judas (166161) . Jonathan (161-144) . Simon (144-135) . John Hyrcanus (135106) , son of Jonathan. Aristobulus and sons (160-63) , unworthy the Maccabean name.

The Roman Period 63 B.C to the time of Christ - In the year 63 B.C. Palestine was conquered by the Romans under Pompey. Antipater, an Idumean (Edomite, descendant of Esau), was appointed ruler of Judea. He was succeeded by his son Herod the Great who was king of Judea (37-3 a.c.). Herod, to obtain favor of the Jews, rebuilt the Temple with great splendor. But he was a brutal, cruel man. This is the Herod who ruled Judah when Jesus was born, and he it was who slew the children of Bethlehem.

The Old Testament Canon
The Apocrypha
Other Writings
The Septuagint
The Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Targums
The Talmud
The Great Synagogue
The Sanhedrin
The Dispersion
Preparation for Christ